- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Breaking down five things Texas and Baylor must do to emerge victorious in Waco, Texas, on Saturday. Here are the keys to the game:
Five things: No. 25 Texas Longhorns
1. Be the more physical team: This was the most important reason why Texas upset Oklahoma. It wasn’t scheme, it was attitude. That’s applicable to both sides of the ball, but it’s especially important up front with an offensive line that must get rolling to power Texas’ essential run game. As Major Applewhite put it after OU, the key was “playing you’re a** off.” The Longhorns did that against Texas Tech and need more of the same on Saturday.
2. Limit big plays: In the blowout loss at Oklahoma State, Baylor put up 453 yards on 83 plays. Half of those yards came on seven plays. The Bears gained 30-plus on just two. That’s about as good as you could’ve asked for, defensively, if you’re the Pokes. A strong defensive showing can fall apart with just a few busts, like permitting an easy 50-yarder for Antwan Goodley or joining the many who have let Lache Seastrunk dash 80 yards. Weather permitting, Texas must get a few big plays of its own from speedsters Mike Davis, Marcus Johnson and/or Daje Johnson.
3. Turnover battle: Texas is 96-6 in the Mack Brown era when it wins the turnover battle, including 5-1 this season. TCU could’ve pulled off a huge upset in Fort Worth last week if not for the fact that Baylor’s defense created three touchdowns, two on pick-sixes. The Bears were minus-3 against Oklahoma State. Considering the weather expected for this game, there’s a good chance turnovers decide this game.
4. Challenge Petty: Baylor QB Bryce Petty has been sacked 10 times in his last four games. Texas notched nine sacks in its last game. But it’s not just about takedowns. When a defense gets physical with Baylor’s receivers, Petty’s timing in the pocket can get thrown off and he starts overthrowing. If Jackson Jeffcoat plays his “spinner” role again, can he and the Texas defensive line cause problems for the All-Big 12 quarterback?
5. Hang in there: Could Texas have taken Oklahoma State four quarters if not for a pick-six in the final minute of the first half? We’ll never know. Unsatisfied with taking a 21-10 deficit into halftime, the Longhorns got greedy and it cost them. A game this big requires taking shots, but they have to be smart. Baylor can fire off a few scores quickly; it’s what this team does. How will Texas make adjustments and answer?
Five things: No. 9 Baylor Bears
1. Establish run game: Baylor leaned heavily on a now-healthy Seastrunk early last week, giving him 19 first-half carries and a career-high 24. Seastrunk, Glasco Martin and Shock Linwood need to pound the middle of a Texas front that, from an experience standpoint, is basically down to two linebackers and two defensive tackles. Keep an eye on the QB run game, too. It remains Texas’ greatest weakness as a defense, and Petty has rushed for 161 yards (excluding sacks) in his last four games.
2. Scoring explosion: In six games this season, the Bears scored at least 21 points in the first quarter. This Texas offense needs to control the tempo and would have a hard time keeping up if Baylor comes out firing and lights up the scoreboard early. But remember: Against Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU, Baylor scored a combined 20 first-quarter points. The good defenses haven’t made it easy.
3. Make McCoy beat you: It’s a phrase that has probably been uttered by every Big 12 defensive coordinator Texas has faced. And yet, the Longhorns are 7-1 in the league. McCoy has a 10-9 TD-INT ratio, which hasn’t burned him much, with the exception of a three-interception day against OSU. McCoy has had some big moments in 2013 and vows he’s a different quarterback than the gunslinger that threw four picks in Waco two years ago. Still, if Baylor can stop the run consistently and force McCoy to win the game with his arm, the Bears will like their chances.
4. Second-and-long, 3-and-out: No Big 12 team has forced more 3-and-outs than Baylor this season. Texas’ offense has the second-fewest in Big 12 play. Something’s got to give. With how heavily Texas relies on the run, getting into second-and-long and third-and-long will mean lots of advantageous situations for a banged-up Bear defense.
5. Depth needed: We talked the depth up plenty when Baylor was rolling. The injuries that have piled up and finally took a toll against Oklahoma State. The Bears gritted out a close one with TCU despite missing several starters, but once again, the second-stringers will need to step up big when called upon.
15hMax Olson and Jake Trotter